Knee Pain: Meniscus Tears vs. Arthritis

Rendering of knee

Meniscus tears are one of the most common knee injuries that can happen at any age. These tears have symptoms that are very similar to knee osteoarthritis, such as pain, swelling, and lack of mobility. For older patients with knee pain, it’s important to understand the differences between pain from a meniscus tear and pain from knee osteoarthritis in order to get proper treatment. In this article, we asked our founder, Dr. Robert Dean, to explain these differences and how meniscus tears and knee osteoarthritis are often connected.

Knee Pain: Torn Meniscus or Osteoarthritis?

“In younger individuals, a torn meniscus is most often the result of a sudden twist in the knee during activity,” says Dr. Dean.  “Tears can also happen as the meniscus wears down with age. Most people over the age of 60 have some degree of meniscus tearing, fraying, or degenerative thinning.”

To identify the root cause of knee pain, patients should first think about when the pain started. This, combined with the patient’s age and general activity level can help determine if the pain is due to a torn meniscus or osteoarthritis.

“If knee pain started suddenly, or after rigorous activity such as running or participating in sports, the pain may be the result of a meniscus tear,” says Dean. “But, if the pain has been increasing steadily over time and you can’t pinpoint an exact time or cause, the pain could be the result of arthritis.”

To put everything into layman’s terms, Dr. Dean explains it like this:

  • Meniscus tears and osteoarthritis can be confusing because both conditions affect cartilage in the knee.
  • The meniscus is a tough and rubbery cartilage that absorbs shock in the knee between the shin and thigh bones.
  • When a meniscus tear occurs, patients often feel an immediate sharp pain after the injury.
  • While some meniscus tears can be severe and require surgery, many cases can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and over the counter medications.
  • Knee osteoarthritis is the general term for the disease that wears down hyaline cartilage, which is the hard and slick coating that prevents the bones from grinding against each other. It’s the same cartilage you find at the end of a chicken bone.
  • Hyaline cartilage typically wears down in spots, which Dean describes as “tiny potholes in your chicken bone cartilage”. The medical term for this wearing is Chondromalacia.
  • As knee osteoarthritis worsens and the cartilage wears down more, this can cause a “bone on bone” diagnosis indicating that the cartilage is no longer providing a barrier between the bones, causing them to rub against one another.
  • Once you are diagnosed as bone on bone, this means you have no meniscus left and it cannot be the cause of your pain.
  • However, those with meniscus tears can still develop knee osteoarthritis and it’s important to watch for symptoms over time.

Diagnosing Your Knee Pain

“Whenever knee pain impacts your daily activities, it’s time to see your doctor,” says Dean. “Once you discuss the cause of your pain, your doctor may take X-Rays to properly diagnose the condition and recommend treatment. If for any reason you are told you must have surgery – always seek a second opinion.”

According to Dean, surgery may provide some patients with the relief they need while others can successfully treat the pain without the risks of surgery.

“At AROmotion, our treatment can stop pain from knee osteoarthritis fast and without surgery,” says Dean. “If you or a loved one has been told that your only option is total knee replacement surgery, I encourage you to seek another opinion first. At AROmotion, we offer free consultations where we can determine if you are a candidate for our minimally-invasive treatment as an alternative to surgery.”

If you are living with chronic knee, hip, or shoulder pain that’s preventing you from daily tasks and activities, you can complete the form below to request your free consultation with Dr. Dean to see if you are a candidate for AROmotion, which has helped more than 2,000 patients stop their joint pain fast without surgery.

Dr. Dean’s Healthy Breakfast Recipes

Healthy Breakfast Recipes

Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? According to AROmotion’s founder, Dr. Robert Dean, it is! While it may be tempting to skip breakfast due to the morning rush or to skip the calories, Dr. Dean says that a healthy and balanced breakfast offers the following benefits:

  • Kickstarts your metabolism and energy for the day
  • Fuels your brain so you can focus on the day’s tasks
  • Helps reduce the risk of overeating later in the day

That said, not all breakfasts are created equal – especially for those trying to manage chronic joint pain through diet.

“For patients with joint pain, it’s important to choose foods that will help control inflammation and not contribute to weight gain, which can put additional strain on the impacted joints,” says Dr. Dean. “When it comes to breakfast, I always advise my patients to choose a balanced meal consisting of lean proteins, fruits and veggies, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and items that are loaded with sugar.”

The good news is that there’s no shortage of delicious options when it comes to making a healthy breakfast at home. In fact, Dr. Dean has his own list of favorite recipes that are loaded with health benefits and easy to whip up quickly at home:

Avocado Toast. This simple recipe has everything – healthy fats, whole grains, veggies, and lean protein. Start by toasting 1-2 pieces of whole-grain bread. Top each slice with ½ avocado that’s been smashed with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and your favorite fresh veggies like diced tomatoes and onions. For a hit of protein, add an egg cooked to your preference. If you like heat, top with red pepper flakes or hot sauce.

Breakfast Wrap. Add two scrambled eggs, chopped turkey bacon, and your favorite chopped veggies to a warm or grilled whole-grain wrap. Sprinkle on a little low-fat shredded cheese, roll it up, slice it in half, and enjoy!

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes. For those who can’t do without something sweet for breakfast, this healthier pancake recipe delivers on both texture and flavor while being free from gluten, dairy, and sugar. Banana and rolled oats replace traditional flourr and best of all, you can still top these with 100% real maple syrup! Get the recipe from Modern Honey here.

Greek Yogurt Parfait.  When it comes to yogurt, Dr. Dean prefers Greek because it’s high in protein and contains probiotics. Avoid flavored varieties which may contain added sugars and instead, add your own by creating a parfait layered with the yogurt and your favorite fresh fruits. This also makes a great dessert!

Simple Breakfast. Eggs are one of the healthiest breakfast options available because they are packed with protein and healthy fats. If you are craving something old school, start with eggs done your way – just avoid adding too much butter or oil in preparation – and pair with crisp turkey bacon, your favorite fresh fruit, and a slice of whole-grain toast.

“I always carve out time to sit down and enjoy a healthy breakfast each morning,” says Dean. “It’s become a relaxing daily ritual that gives me energy and keeps me full through the afternoon. And, by choosing the right ingredients, you can help reduce inflammation and keep your joint pain in check.”

If you are living with chronic knee, hip, or shoulder pain that’s preventing you from daily tasks and activities, you can complete the form below to request your free consultation with Dr. Dean to see if you are a candidate for AROmotion, which has helped more than 2,000 patients stop their joint pain fast without surgery.

Your Mental Health Checklist

Healthy seniors meditating outside

“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close

Mental health impacts how we think, feel, and go about our everyday lives. Even so, it has often been overlooked when talking about overall health and wellbeing due to outdated stigmas and cultural attitudes. Thankfully, those stigmas are starting to lift due to many high-profile individuals like actress Glenn Close speaking openly and honestly about mental health.

Like any other aspect of life, our mental health needs change as we get older. However, while age brings experience and wisdom that can help build stress management skills, physical changes can impact our emotional wellbeing, such as chronic pain and other age-related physical health issues.

“At AROmotion, I primarily treat patients over the age of 55 with chronic joint pain,” says Dr. Robert Dean, founder of AROmotion. “While the primary goal of our treatment is to stop joint pain, I also focus on the mental health aspect of it.”

According to Dean, living with chronic joint pain is stressful, both physically and emotionally.

“When stress reactions are triggered, the body undergoes hormonal changes that can throw you off balance, shift your mood, disrupt your sleep, and eventually lead to anxiety or depression,” he says. “Once a patient reaches a state where pain has impacted mental health, stopping the pain isn’t enough. Once we turn off the pain, then the patient needs to nurture their mental health so they can get back to enjoying everyday life.”

Managing mental health may seem overwhelming, but Dr. Dean says a simple checklist is all we need to stay on track:

Eat a Balanced Diet. Whole foods like fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats aren’t just good for the waistline – they are also good to help balance our mood. While it’s OK to indulge every now and then, overeating processed or fried foods can cause fatigue and hurt stress and anxiety.

Get Moving. Don’t let chronic pain stop you from getting some movement every day. Low-impact workouts are great to stay on track, and this includes walking. If you are concerned about aggravating existing pain, talk with your doctor about the best workout plan for you.

Enjoy the Outdoors. Exposure to fresh air and natural light can be an instant mood booster! And studies show that exposure to natural light during the day helps us sleep better at night.

Prioritize Sleep. Don’t believe the myth that we need less sleep as we age! Older adults still need 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. If you regularly have trouble falling asleep, try creating a new relaxing bedtime ritual like a hot bath, and be sure to stick to a regular bedtime schedule. If chronic pain is keeping you up, talk with your doctor about your options.

Stay Connected. Spending time with friends and loved ones is an essential part of our mental health. This can help prevent feelings of isolation related to chronic pain and aging while also giving you an outlet to share your thoughts and feelings with those you trust.

Practice Gratitude. When you start to feel, stress coming on related to your pain or getting older, pause and focus on all the good things in your life. This will give you a sense of purpose and reason to take the necessary steps to manage your pain.

“Aging is a gift that should be cherished,” says Dean. “Yes, it comes with aches, pains, and other health changes, but each day we wake up is a new opportunity to enjoy ourselves and our loved ones. That’s why making our mental health a top priority is so important as we get older.”

If you are living with chronic knee, hip, or shoulder pain that’s preventing you from daily tasks and activities, you can complete the form below to request your free consultation with Dr. Dean to see if you are a candidate for AROmotion, which has helped more than 2,000 patients stop their joint pain fast without surgery.

Dr. Dean’s Daily Stretching Routine for Joint Pain

Active Senior Couple Stretching

Stretching is an important part of any daily exercise routine, and especially so as we age. As our joints take on normal wear and tear with the passing of time, daily stretching can help maintain and increase joint movement, relieve muscle tension, and reduce the risk of injury from daily tasks and workouts.

“For my patients with joint pain and limited mobility, I always recommend daily stretching to help manage the pain while and allow for greater movement,” says AROmotion’s founder, Dr. Robert Dean. “Stretching is also a simple way to help prevent injuries that can complicate an existing joint condition.”

According to Dean, it’s important to stretch the entire body and not just the areas affected by joint pain. “If you are living with chronic joint pain, the last thing you need is a new injury in another area of the body to manage. By stretching your body from head to toe, you’ll reduce that risk.”

If you need some inspiration for your daily stretching routine while managing joint pain, here’s Dr. Dean’s favorite daily routine that he often shares with his patients:

Neck Rolls. This stretch can be done sitting or standing with the back straight for optimal posture. Tilt your head to one side and feel the gentle stretch on the opposite side of your neck. Breathe in and roll your head to the other side to stretch. Repeat this move up to 10 times or until you feel a release of tension in your neck.

Shoulder Rolls. Next, while maintaining proper posture, roll your shoulders up towards your ears and then back as you pinch your shoulder blades together. Repeat 10 times while breathing in and out deeply.

Arm Criss-Cross. Again, maintain your proper posture while standing or sitting and hook your right arm with your left forearm to form a “T” while pulling the right arm in towards you left shoulder. Breathe into the stretch and hold for several seconds. Repeat on the other side, then repeat the set up to 5 times.  

Side Stretch. Raise your right arm over your head, keeping that posture, and bend sideways at the waist until you feel a good stretch in your right side. Breathe in and out, then repeat on the other side. Repeat the set up to 5 times.

Toe Touches. This move is best done while standing, but if your mobility is limited it can also be done while seated. Slowly roll your head down towards your chest and continue to drop down towards your toes. Feel the stretch in the back of your legs and be sure to stop before it becomes uncomfortable. Hold for several seconds, roll up slowly, and repeat up to 5 times.

Forward-Bending Hamstring Stretch. Sit down with your back straight and your head pulling towards the ceiling. Place your right leg directly out in front of you with your foot flexed and slowly bend forward with a flat back as far as you can. Breathe in and out of the stretch, roll back up slowly, and repeat on the other side. Repeat the set 5-10 times.

Seated Glute and Sciatica Stretch. Next, place your right foot on top of your left knee and sit up straight, head pointed towards the ceiling. Grip the sides of the chair with your hand, keep a flat back, and lower slowly from the waist to feel a stretch across your sciatic nerve and into your glutes. Breathe in and out and hold for several seconds. Come up slowly, repeat on the other side, then repeat the set 3-5 times. If you have a lot of tension in this area, you may want to hold the stretch for longer while making sure to listen to your body regarding how far down to bend.

Foot Circles. Finally, show your feet a little love with this move! Again, while seated, extend your right foot out directly in front of you and move your foot from the ankle in a clockwise circle 8 times. Then, move the foot counterclockwise 8 times. Repeat on the other side, then you can repeat the set 3-5 times as needed.

“This simple routine can be done from the comfort of your home, sitting or standing, and best of all it doesn’t take that long,” says Dr. Dean. “The most important thing is to listen to your body! Don’t push past your own limits. Stretching should feel good and release tension, so when you start to feel pain or discomfort – that’s your body’s signal to not push the stretch further. And remember, you will become stronger and more flexible with time”

If you are living with chronic knee, hip, or shoulder pain that’s preventing you from daily tasks and activities, you can complete the form below to request your free consultation with Dr. Dean to see if you are a candidate for AROmotion which has helped more than 2,000 patients stop their joint pain fast without surgery.